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Drop and roll: How Ullmark channeled Hasek in victory over Wild

Goalie's barrel roll save was an homage to childhood idol

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber / Sabres.com

If you thought for a moment that Linus Ullmark looked like a certain Buffalo Sabres legend on Tuesday, know that it was no accident. 

Although he hails from Lugnvik, Sweden, Ullmark grew up idolizing Dominik Hasek for his unorthodox style and legendary intensity. When a defensive-zone turnover led to a point-blank scoring chance for the Minnesota Wild's Marcus Foligno on Tuesday night, he channeled one of Hasek's signature moves.

Video: MIN@BUF: Ullmark slides across to stone Foligno

"You hear all these rumors and stories about him having shutouts in practice and guys hating shooting on him because he was just dominating them," Ullmark said after practice on Wednesday. "I kind of always idolized him from that standpoint and try to be like him when I play and during practices. 

"It doesn't mean I'm just going to flop around all the time and do two-pad stacks. When the time to do it arrives, you have to throw yourself in there. Luckily, yesterday, I was able to read off the shot on Moose and took it away."

It's not the first time Ullmark has utilized the "Hasek roll." He pulled it out during the AHL Skills Competition a year ago and says he's used it before in games. He even practices the move when the opportunity arises. 

Tweet from @TheAHL: Stop, drop and roll pic.twitter.com/wXAEIhusN3

But as much as Ullmark idolized Hasek for his creativity, he held the Hall of Famer's consistency in equally high regard. Just as there was a method to Hasek's madness, Ullmark explained how he picked his spot to utilize the barrel roll when presented with Foligno's attempt. 

"It's all about the read," he said. "If you're lucky enough to read it right that he's going to go high, then it's all about getting something in there. Yesterday, it wasn't as stressful as it usually is during those situations because I was in a good spot.

"I was calm and collected so I could read off the shot and react to it. It wasn't like I just rotated and swiveled around with my pads in the air. In my mind, I was pretty controlled in that moment."

The barrel roll isn't the only emergency option in Ullmark's toolbox. He's known to make his share of windmill glove saves, and he's even practiced the ability to redirect shots with his Minion-covered mask.

It all stems from Ullmark's days as a young goaltender, when his unorthodox style was as much a roadblock as it was an asset. Coaches told him he looked more like a soccer goalie than a hockey goalie, that his play was too unpredictable. 

"I've always had that kind of arsenal, I would say, those tools in the toolbox to pull out," he said. "For me, it was much more about bringing everything into a controlled state of mind and not to do it all the time. More about doing the easy saves and try to make the hard saves as easy as possible.

"But then whenever you're put in a bad spot or situation and there's a rebound, tip, whatever you have, you can just pick out the right tool and use it."

His goalie coach, Andrew Allen, said he's seen dramatic strides in that sense from the time Ullmark was thrust into a 20-game NHL stint in 2015-16, when he a 22-year-old rookie coming off double-hip surgery.

"I really feel his game has simplified over time," Allen said. "When he first got here, he would almost chase the play. He'd be moving on saves a lot more. Now he gets his feet set. His edge control is his biggest strength, so he's able to get into position more often to not have to make these. 

"But the fact of the matter that he had, growing up, this innate ability to make the big save and these acrobatic saves is that he has that in his toolbox, so it's always there for him. From a consistency standpoint, you don't want to see him having to use that all the time."

Any comparison to Hasek, Allen says, comes down to the two goaltenders' ability to think the game.

"Linus has got some flare in some of the save selections he makes," he said. "So yeah, you can see some of that influence. I equate it to hockey sense, how Dom Hasek had this innate hockey sense to make saves that other goalies hadn't even thought of.

"Linus at times gets into positions where he thinks these saves out that some other goalies don't. I do see an influence for sure from Hasek, but I equate it to hockey sense. It's just hockey sense."

Ullmark got a chance to show off his skillset in front of Hasek at the inaugural Skills Challenge in January, but he hasn't yet had the chance to speak at length with his idol.

When they do meet, they should have plenty to talk about. 

"It's cool that he's around," he said. "I'd like to do that someday, obviously, because he was my idol growing up. If I'm lucky enough to stay around for a lot of years, I'm sure that I'll get to talk to him someday."

 

Wednesday's practice

Video: SABRES NOW

Johan Larsson took a step toward returning from an upper-body injury, practicing on a line with Zemgus Girgensons and Vladimir Sobotka. Coach Phil Housley said his status for Buffalo's game against Carolina on Thursday will be determined after the team's morning skate.

Tage Thompson skated as the extra forward at practice, with Housley sticking to the changes he made in the third period against Minnesota. That included Jack Eichel being placed back on a line with Jeff Skinner and Jason Pominville.

"I didn't really like our second period," Housley said. "We tried to roll with those lines early in the third, but I just tried to find a combination that worked for us. I thought Jack's line was really good when Skinner was placed back on that line to get him more involved."

Video: AFTER PRACTICE: Housley

Here's how the Sabres lined up:

53 Jeff Skinner - 9 Jack Eichel - 29 Jason Pominville
43 Conor Sheary - 37 Casey Mittelstadt - 23 Sam Reinhart
49 C.J. Smith - 71 Evan Rodrigues - 21 Kyle Okposo
28 Zemgus Girgensons - 22 Johan Larsson - 17 Vladimir Sobotka / 72 Tage Thompson

26 Rasmus Dahlin - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
24 Lawrence Pilut - 4 Zach Bogosian
6 Marco Scandella - 19 Jake McCabe
82 Nathan Beaulieu - 48 Matt Hunwick / 8 Casey Nelson

40 Carter Hutton 
35 Linus Ullmark 

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